Anxiety about treatment can keep potential patients out of orthodontic practices. To cut down on no-shows and non-committals, orthodontists have to think about how to use online and personal engagement to reduce patient anxiety.

Online Engagement

Engagement often begins with an orthodontic practice’s website. It serves as a virtual office, and it is where most people’s relationship with the practice will begin. To reduce their anxiety from the start, their concerns need to be addressed on the website. It must be informative and easy to navigate.

Live online chat can be used to build rapport with patients by initiating a relationship that otherwise might not be created if someone wasn’t there to engage with the patient. A modern orthodontic practice has the potential to generate 40% more leads through its website than through traditional means.

You want to build as much value as possible for the practice and orthodontist before the patient shows up. Frame it in a way that you are the patient advocate and that you are going to do everything you can to make it a simple process for them. When they show up at the practice, they are much more likely to start treatment. If the patient is not ready for treatment, then the family will be a lot more confident in scheduling orthodontic treatment in a year.

The Power of Chat

A live website chat service can be used to answer initial patient questions or set appointments. Online chat works the same way as speaking with the practice’s office coordinator on the phone. The power of personal connection makes that first appointment “sticky.” The patient or responsible family member already knows someone at the office. If they like the people that they are interacting with on the phone or through chat, they are more likely to show up for that appointment. By delivering great service to people, it makes them feel good and makes it much more likely that they will show up and buy.

The challenge to providing live chat services from within the practice is one of expense and utility. The same employees who were hired for their ability to verbally communicate with patients over the phone or in person might not have suitable written communication skills.

You have to make sure they are really good at interacting with patients online and not just trust that they can do that because they can talk to patients over the phone. You can lose opportunities if they don’t have good spelling or grammar.

Chats that go unanswered decrease the professionalism of the practice. Even though you’re offering an online chat, if nobody is answering it, that is really bad news. Outsourcing chat services to an outside provider is one solution that can be cost-effective while providing 24/7 coverage.

Building Rapport

Whether by online chat or telephone, you can reduce patient anxiety and build rapport by telling them things that build value for the practice. That way, they understand your expertise before they get there. There is no question that you know what you’re doing.

When you do a good job explaining what kind of experience they are going to get when they sign up for treatment or schedule a follow-up appointment, they are confident with who you are. You have dictated what kind of experience they’re going to receive, and then you allow their confirmation bias and the experience you deliver to confirm what they thought about your practice, which makes it a lot easier. They are not as nervous from the get-go because you have confirmed yourself as an expert.

Take the Deal

Cost is one of the most anxiety-producing parts of orthodontic treatment. Patients or their families want to know about it, but the doctors don’t want to talk about it, and the staff is instructed not to talk about it. To be more forthright is better.

To reduce financial anxiety over orthodontics treatment, make sure that the person responsible for payment goes into the appointment with the understanding you are not going to let finances get in
the way.

The willingness to be flexible and work with the patient or their family pays off tremendously because you remove all of the barriers and anxiety about finances. In my own family’s practice, we’ve seen it over and over where patients that you might not think would pay for the treatment, pay cash. We try to finance every single person and be as flexible as possible. We just say yes. It’s clear we want the patient’s business. If you just start saying yes to patients and getting treatment started, your top lines and bottom lines get better.

The Personal Touch

Don’t forget the personal touch. If the orthodontist or a high-level staff member calls the family the day before the appointment, it increases the show rate the next day. It can be as simple as saying hello and introducing yourself and asking if there are any questions you can answer.

The Last Word

Remember, patients are people. Use the power of online and personal engagement to establish rapport with them to reduce their anxiety. A patient who is afraid won’t show up for treatment. Eliminating their fear is the key to establishing a lasting and profitable relationship. OP

Scott Hansen, MBA, is the founder and CEO of DentistChats, a professionally managed website chat service exclusively for dental professionals. Since 2016, the company has grown from one to more than 100 employees and is recognized as one of the 100 fastest growing businesses in the country. Prior to that, Hansen joined his family’s Kansas City dental practice as practice director, where he implemented innovative marketing and sales systems. Over 4 years, Hansen earned his family’s practice consecutive awards as one of the fastest growing businesses in the country.